Mid to Late 1500s - Rare Plant Collections
During the 16th century, plants were being accurately described and systematically categorized for the first time.  New plants were arriving in Europe from Asia and the New World.  Among the European nobility, there was a craze for cataloguing and collecting natural specimens, including flowers.
The Holy Roman emperor Maximillian hired Carolus Clusius, one of the leading botanists of the era, to oversee his botanical garden.  Clusius also worked for Rudolf II, Maximillian's successor.  Clusius is credited with introducing the tulip into Europe.  Ever the scientist, he tried the bulbs as a boiled vegetable (he wasn't impressed with the taste) and reported that tulips had no medicinal value.
Bulb plants were especially popular with the plant collectors.  Bulbs are easier to transport long distances than potted plants, and  many bulb plants produce showy, colorful flowers. 

Spacious gardens were designed to show off plant collections.  The overall layout followed a geometrical pattern; small beds were separated by hedges or paths.  Each bed contained only a few plants, so visitors could view and admire each flower.   Theft was a problem.  What collectors couldn't buy or trade for, they would sometimes steal from the garden of a rival.
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